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Informal traders vow to resist relocation

by Staff reporter
03 May 2020 at 09:01hrs | Views
A grouping of informal traders, Bulawayo Upcoming Traders' Association (Buta) is resisting relocation by the Bulawayo City Council (BCC) from operating at a section of the Central Business District (CBD) as the local authority moves to decongest the city centre in the wake of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Buta secretary-general Mr Dumisani Ncube said the informal traders operating along 5th Avenue have taken a position to move back to their spaces of trading after the national lockdown, which was extended for another two weeks by President Mnangagwa on Friday. He said they risk losing business if they relocate to other areas.

"The position of vendors is that they won't move from the 5th Avenue marketplace. The council must just re-arrange the vending bays to maintain social distancing. If we move, we will lose business. This part of town is easily accessible to our customers," he said.

The association has vowed to take the local authority to court should it close 5th Avenue for informal trading or relocate its members.

"We are trying to avoid a situation which happened in 2005 where we ended up taking the council to court, since we are legally trading with licences expiring on the 31st December 2020 and some of our members have paid their rentals in advance. The issue of social distancing can be rectified amicably," Mr Ncube.

A letter by the association addressed to the Town Clerk, Mr Christopher Dube, shown to Sunday News Business indicates the unwillingness of the informal traders to move from their trading area.

"We as an association are of the opinion that there is urgent need for engagement among all stakeholders involved in this matter, as a means of arriving at an amicable agreement . . . May we state clearly that we seek co-operative engagement without unnecessary costs (lawsuits). Please bear in mind that 95 percent of the population is unemployed and therefore rely on vending for a livelihood. Making arbitrary decisions that deny such persons of their rights to work for a living may lead to unnecessary confrontation," read part of the letter.
Contacted for a comment, the town clerk said he was yet to receive such correspondence.

He, however, said the local authority would go ahead with plans to close 5th Avenue from all informal trading activities in accordance with its long-standing town planning programme.

"The closure of 5th Avenue is a town planning issue, which cannot be wished away, as we plan to be a Smart City by 2030, as per our vision. We've the Covid-19 pandemic and other commutable infectious diseases to control and we have to revolutionise the way we do business because what was happening at 5th Avenue was unsustainable," said Mr Dube.

He, however, said the local authority would come up with a number of initiatives to ensure that all informal traders that would be affected are assisted with alternative working spaces.

"People will always resist change because of the risk factor or fear of the unknown. We'll try our best as we can to mitigate the plight of traders who will be affected. In the end I believe everyone will buy into the policy shift," said Mr Dube.

Source - sundaynews